Student jobs increasingly difficult to find

By Grace Rebekah Kenney

As a result of a lack of new jobs and most students keeping their old jobs, it has been especially hard this semester for students to find work on and around campus.

“I didn’t realize it was so competitive,” said Ruoyu Zhu, freshman in Engineering.

Zhu applied for a multimedia-related job on campus, which he found through the University’s virtual job board Web site, expecting around five students to also apply. Instead, he was surprised to find that more than 20 people had applied for the job. With the job given to someone more qualified, he was forced to continue searching.

“During this week I am definitely going to keep applying for more jobs,” he said.

LaVonne Novakofski, assistant director at the Office of Student Financial Aid, blames the current lack of campus jobs on several factors, including more students holding jobs.

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Last year, there were 4,085 new student employees, she said, compared to 3,886 in 2007. Currently a total of 8,000 undergraduate students work on campus, many of whom hold several jobs.

As mentioned in an e-mail last semester from University of Illinois President B. Joseph White, there will be a freeze on “all except essential hiring,” with some departments possibly interpreting this to include students, Novakofski said.

The fact that budgets are uncertain may cause full-time employees to pick up tasks that were previously performed by students. This means a decrease in available jobs, as more departments may become unable to loosen their budgets for students.

Despite all the negative effects of the economy, some positive results are starting to show through.

Some departments are currently asking more questions about the Federal Work Study program because the federal government pays 60 percent of Federal Work Study salaries.

“It’s unknown if it’s going to affect fiscal year 2009 or even 2010,” Novakofski said.

As for non-University jobs, the lack of advertising for potential employees in Campustown restaurants and businesses plagues student job seekers.

“There has been a huge influx of applications this semester,” said Ryan Block, general manager of Murphy’s Pub on Green Street. “Unfortunately, I’m not hiring this semester. Most people have kept their jobs.”

Another factor is the upcoming increase in Illinois’ minimum wage, which is supposed to take place on July 1. With a wage increase, employers might be forced to cut back with employees and hours. Block said he will evaluate that situation as the time gets closer.

“Things will have to change,” he said. “But I’m not sure how yet.”

All hope for finding a job is not lost, however, as Novakofski mentioned several examples of students who found jobs through means other than the virtual job board.

“Just because there isn’t a job posted, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a job available,” she said. “A lot of times jobs are word of mouth. Look on bulletin boards. Talk to your academic advisor within your college.”

Novakofski recommended that students in need of jobs make the first move.

“Take your resume and go talk with people in different departments,” she said. “Check back, as jobs sometimes do become available later on in the semester.”

Even if a job isn’t ideal or directly related to a student’s major, students should hold on to whatever they have.

“Don’t ever close the doors,” Novakofski said. “Sometimes you just have to take the job that will pay the bills.”